Story: Keith Davidsen
Art: Randy Valiente (art) and Jorge Sutil (colours)
Dr. Herbert West is back. Not only that, but he seems to have gotten his groove back in a sense and with a new assistant, new craziness and the usual undead capers to come, this 4-issue mini could be something interesting.
Though the character of the Reanimator has seen several adventures under the aegis of Dynamite Entertainment already, I’ve not really read them because (a) they were all hack-slashy-mashups and cross-overs and I remain ever-weary of those and (b) every single one seemed to be going for a much more.. supernatural taste.
This is a big part of why I elected to try out this new mini, because writer Keith Davidson promises that while there is the ever-present spectre of the other-worldly, Dr. West himself is here being taken back to his original roots as the purely scientifically driven mad-genius in the original Lovecraft work. Yes, for those that didn’t know this, The Reanimator was originally by the master of horror himself.
The short version of the setup is that after saving her life, Dr. West takes on a young scientist named Susan Greene as an assistant of sorts, she has suffered some tragedy and is in a dark place and so becomes part of his world. But he needs means to carry on his work and the latest dangerous way he is doing that is to sell an extract from the brains of his zombies as a new designer drug – only to be possibly caught in the middle of some serious trouble.
The first big plus for me in this issue is hands own the portrayal of Dr. West, both visually and in character. He is a cold calculating, highly efficient research machine who is only focussed on his work – in fact it’s a nice touch that they include his previous Dynamite presences as him straying from the path of pure science and dabbling with the magical and now, dismayed at where that took him, he has returned to the scientific fold renewed and revitalised. In addition, Randy Valiente truly shines with every panel he draws of the man – his expression alone carries so much and even if Valiente slacked off on everything else on every page, this alone would make me applaud his art here because the sense of creepy-ness, intensity and.. something undefinable.. is perfect for our “hero”.
This time around he has a new assistant who acts initially as a reader surrogate and while that’s a nice touch and has been used by several story-tellers (with the Doctor Who companion as a long-standing example), I wasn’t too taken with the idea, but once we reach the end of the issue and see a small reveal, it suddenly feels like there are better plans for her here than just another random assistant. How it pans out, I don’t know, but the potential for fun remains.
Overall the story itself also flows and reads well and should be a simple and breezy read for anyone – an old fan or someone who’s never heard the name before. It’s accessible and yet never extra-simplified which does add to its strengths and I hope they play to that in the future issues. The idea of a drug war with West in the middle is fun enough, but the inclusion of a Cult of Cthulhu and a Voudoo priest/crew just makes it highly intriguing as it will have to clash with Wests new scientific bent.
What’s not so good:
My main concerns with this issue (and the setup for the series) are two-fold:
Firstly, while I’m tickled at the idea of Dr. West in the middle of a supernatural-tinged gang war, I’m worried about what the presence of such an overwhelming amount of the magical could do to spoil this story. While I remain hopeful, it’ll be hard not to be tempted to enjoy having both Cthulhu and Voudoo mythos’ to play with I’d imagine, and the artist renders what little I’ve seen well enough.
Secondly, while I’m happy about the twist in the tale of the assistant Susan, this is also like the first point, potentially shaky ground and very easy to do it in a silly/cheesy manner – to play it out in an interesting way and give it enough time while the bigger picture of the gang-war and Wests own plans will not be an easy task and I hope the team is up to the challenge.
The art is not complaint-worthy, but while it remains not all that great in all pages, the atmospheric colouring thankfully does seem to cover for it so this is a minor grouse at best.
The Last Word:
For new readers who want something different and more interesting in their horror reading, I daresay this is very promising. It’s not filled with Vampires, Werewolves or even your regular zombies and seems to have a slow-burn action mixed with speedy-paced narrative progression that should make for a good comic.
For fans of the old stuff, especially the movies, I’d say you’re in for a treat – and the hardcore Lovecraftian fans should be mighty pleased.
Whatever it turns into, this first issue is a solid entry and is good enough to make me want to read the next and is genuinely a change from the gory, over-the-top and supernatural-dependant horror we’ve been saturated by and for that alone I would recommend giving it a shot.
Story Score: 7/10
Art Score: 7/10
Overall Score: 7/10